“Elvis had read a newspaper editorial that stated, rather proudly, that Nigeria had a higher percentage of millionaires- in dollars, not local currency-than nearly any other country in the world, and most of them lived and conducted their business in Lagos. The editorial failed to mention that their wealth had been made over the years with the help of crooked politicians, criminal soldiers, bent contractors, and greedy oil-company executives. Or that Nigeria also had a higher percentage of poor people than nearly any other country in the world. What was it his father has said about statistics?
‘If you have it, flaunt it; if you don’t, flaunt statistics.’” (p.8)
In the beginning section of the novel, Abani gives us background knowledge about Lagos, Nigeria in this time period. Even this early in the novel, we see that Elvis is a young man of next to no means and impersonates Elvis on the street to earn money. By using the language, “failed to mention” in the context above describing the city, we get the idea that the city center of Lagos portrays to the rest of the world a façade of great wealth. Abani mentions in an earlier section that only one third of the city is so glamorous as the description that was in the editorial that Elvis read. Abani takes this early opportunity to inform us that Lagos is not what it may seem to many from the outside looking in. His use of the words, “greedy, criminal and crooked” reinforce the idea that the city of Lagos has built the success it grasps onto by means of corrupt measures. By outlining this early he gives us insight into the theme of things not being what they may seem.
“Statistics” are powerful measures of success and power that many go by to determine a plethora of things. Statistics, however, can also be misleading and do not tell the entire story. Elvis’ father infers that he thinks that statistics are a tool to be used to “flaunt” something if a place is not self explanatorily good or up to par. It is also interesting to note that although Elvis’ father is a man that is not at all a likeable character, he is noted for saying something so profound.
Elvis mentions working and acquiring enough capital to go to America and live the dream. I wonder if the idea he has about America is as a place of all things positive is just another example of the theme of things not always being what they seem.
“Three years of words poured out of her (but he body, stretched by the exigencies of storing them, did not diminish). My grandfather stood very still by the Telefunken as the storm broke over him. Whose idea had it been? Whose crazy fool scheme, whatsitsname, to let this coward who wasn’t even a man into the house?… Who had put his daughter into that scoundrel’s whatsitsname, yes, the white-haired weakling who had permitted this iniquitous marriage” (p. 64)?
It is at this point in the book where the reader sees Saleem reveals what is behind the facade of Aziz and Naseem’s marriage. After three years of silence, Naseem breaks it after finding out that after two years of marriage, her daughter remains a virgin. In this passage, Naseem shows intense emotion to her husband by calling him a, “fool.” Naseem is expressing her disproval in Aziz’s actions by allowing Nadir Khan to live secretly in their home and allow his own daughter to marry such a man. Saleem describes this moment as a, “storm.” The connotation of a storm could be something this is impending and when the right moment comes, chaos ensues. Perhaps starting off slowly and gradually, but then building faster and more intense waves of emotion.
A connection is made between the storm that Naseem pours on her husband and the atomic bomb that America drops on Japan on this very day. Parallels can be drawn from this event happening to the storm that is said to break over them when Naseem speaks for the first time. The atomic bomb being dropped in Japan was America’s response to the Japanese bombing pearl harbor; perhaps Naseem’s explosion was from her husband’s acts of secrecy and her thoughts that her husband was a bad father? The “iniquitous marriage” that Mumtaz and Nadir had is sinful and unjust as seen by Naseem; many people view American’s in a negative light for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan as well.
The connections that we are able to make between themes in the book and the world events are significant and help us to better understand the intention of Saleem’s story telling and add context to the information he shares with us.
” Hel. You can’t deny it, my dear little Nora. It’s a sweet little spendthrift, but she uses up a deal of
money. One would hardly believe how expensive such little persons are!
Nora. It’s a shame to say that. I do really save all I can.
Hel. That’s very true- all you can. But you can’t save anything!
Nora. You haven’t any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald.
Hel. You are an odd little soul. Very much like your father you always find some new way of wheedling money out of me, and as soon as you have got it it seems to melt in your hands… Still, one must take you as you are…”(4).
In the opening pages of A Doll’s House we are introduced to husband and wife, Torvald and Nora respectively. Ibsen informs the reader immediately of the dynamic of their relationship in this opening dialogue. Torvald uses the word, “little” numerous times when addressing his wife. This is telling of the relationship that the two of them have. Nora is his submissive and seems to enjoy this. She refers to herself as, “skylarks and squirrels.” This indicates that she sees herself as someone he needs to take care of and would in turn be lost and alone without her caregiver. Torvald is pointing out a flaw in his wife, in this passage. This flaw being that she can be a reckless spender of his money. Torvald does not know the way in which Nora is truly spending her money and Nora uses her womanly prowess to her benefit when she is trying to get something she wants from her husband. Torvald elaborates in this passage, “one must take you as you are.” This language connotes that Torvald is speaking down to his wife- inferring that he has no choice in having to deal with his wife’s character flaw of spending too much.
This passage is very telling of how Nora and her husband continue to interact through scene two. Torvald tells Nora that the money “seems to melt in her hands.” Torvald is furtively acknowledging that he does not know where the money is going that he sometimes gives her. The reader finds out that the money is going to Mr. Krogstad in order to pay off a loan that he gave her when her husband fell ill. Mr. Torvald does not know this, for he thinks that the money came from Nora’s wealthy father. Nora does not want Torvald to find out because she thinks it would insult his masculinity. Nora tries to feed his sense of masculinity from the beginning of the play and she uses this tactic throughout.